The magic "I" in the CIO's title evokes a lot of imagination!
The prominence of the CIO position has risen greatly as IT has become an increasingly important part of the modern organization. Many CIOs are adding additional c-level titles to reflect the growing interest in technology in high-performance companies, this trend is referred to as the CIO-plus. However, with the criticality of information, there are multiple relevant titles cropped up such as Chief Data Officer, Chief Digitalization Officer, Chief Process Officer, Chief Customer Officer., etc. or at larger enterprise, there are multiple people holding the CIO title, it stimulates further debates: Do the emerging titles devalue the CIO role? Should CIO title be unique, does too many C-role cause confusion in the market and within the organization? What are the major responsibilities of CIOs?
1. The Root of CIO Role and Information as Life Blood of Business
The original reason for the CIO was to have one person who with overarching responsibility for the multiple IT initiatives spawned by the business units within large organizations. Those initiatives were often not coordinated and ignored the potential interactions between business lines. That was why Chief INFORMATION Officer was born, the role was to assure the entire organization could leverage the information created by many systems serving many constituencies. Yes, "CIO" is the original title for IT leader.
- It is all about information – How are information-related outcomes achieved? Information (from an IT perspective) is really data following a process. The digitalizing or digitalization is often used when diverse forms of information, such as text, sound, image or voice, are converted into a single binary code as it flows through systems. Part of the CIOs role is to structure the information in a way that it can be used, build the trust and have feedback loops to test the quality of information. The challenge is working with peers to ensure that the interfaces between the business and information architecture align, and the business architecture is correct in the first place.
- Although the title is not as essential as responsibility, the standard needs to be set: Many argue that the CIO title should be unique and should be held by the position that is really managing the "Information" within the corporation, having multiple people holding the title does water-down the position and causes confusion in the market and within the organization, or creates the new silo and add the more layers of bureaucracy. Further, the title can often be misleading and situation-driven, many companies define the duties and functions of a CIO differently. The focus of IT upon business transformation is not about changing the title, but changing the mindset, attitude, setting up the standard, to improving IT capability and maturity as well.
2. C-Level IT Leader’s Responsibility
Leadership, confidence and being competent not only in IT but Business are crucial elements, in terms of a title an effective leader is included regardless of the title but by the contribution and input they can provide.
- High-performance companies have a C-suite that is primarily focused on making the entire enterprise function smoothly, not just their functional silo: ANY C-level executive, regardless of the middle word of the title, should have the ability to be a corporate business leader, transcending the functional organization that they represent, while still being able to bring that perspective to bear on the corporate planning and direction. If they can't speak intelligently about the functions of a business, and have a very clear understanding of how each interrelates, as well as the corporate market position, financial position, socio-economic business impacts, competitive position, they are more as functional manager.
- 40/40/20 Ratio of C-Level Responsibility: In leading companies, top level performance is created when C-level execs spend 40% of their time on strategic issues, and another 40% on overall business coordination across functional silos. The 20% is spent interacting with the VP level that remains responsible solely for the functional silo. Many “C” level roles now have an element of risk/ compliance identification, management, reduction/acceptance and adherence. The CIO now also takes responsibility as shared business innovator (depending on the company) from a technology perspective and how that supports organizational goals including revenue targets.
- Simplification has to be part of the long-term game that an IT leader needs to play. The scope of IT is broadening daily, social and environmental needs are increasingly driving the type of access people require. It’s now more relevant than ever to have a leader that will build feasible business-centric strategies, to keep the business ahead or at least in line with customer expectation. Senior managers need to own process within their area with the CIO office facilitating an end to end business process mapping, assisting in defining appropriate owners and hand off points across the business. Without a fully understanding of upstream and downstream impacts, inefficiencies across operational silos won't be addressed. Indeed, there needs to be a strong leadership team to work seamlessly, breakdown the silo and bureaucracy.
The title of IT leader may still vary, but every CIO is unique, every IT organization is unique and every business needs to have its own unique set of capabilities to compete for the future.